TTFit are thrilled to share an interview with the #1 World Ranked Para player Will Bayley.
Bayley was born with a condition called arthrogyposis which affects all four limbs and was then diagnosed with cancer aged 7. However, this didn’t stop him, as he was introduced to Table Tennis in hospital and immediately fell in love with the game.
Will became World Champion in 2014 and is also the current Olympic Champion!
1. We understand your Grandmother was a factor in you taking up Table Tennis, can you tell us more?
I was getting treatment for Non-Hodgin disease at Great Ormond Street and my Gran bought me a small table to play in the hospital. It all really started from there and I immediately fell in love with the game. Unfortunately she passed away just before Beijing 2008 and so never got to see me play, hopefully she is looking down on me with a little pride!
2. You are well known for your work rate and dedication, can you discuss this incredible mindset you have?
I think all the illnesses I went through as a young boy have helped me become the person I am today. The arthrogryposis made it tough for me even to walk and then when I had the Non-Hodgin Lymphoma I was basically fighting for my life. To experience all this at an age when you are taking everything in definitely makes me realise how lucky I am to be alive and to just appreciate being here! I don’t think I would be half as tough as I am today without having gone through all those tough experiences.
3. Can you describe your emotions when you won the Olympic Gold Medal in Rio in 2016, and did losing in the final in London 2012 make it even more special?
I remember a feeling of what felt like electricity going through my whole body for about 3 seconds! This probably explains why I was able to jump on the Table as I’ve tried it since and haven’t been able to do it! The feeling was nothing I have ever experienced before as I think deep down, I realised I had reached my ultimate goal. I think that the emotions of achievement and pride just overwhelmed me for a few seconds as I knew what all I had been through and all the hard work I had put in.
4. Can you tell us 2 of the main challenges you have faced in your quest to become the best in the world?
Firstly, I suppose it is to try and keep my focus and dedication to the game throughout distractions and injuries that I have had to deal with. Secondly, it is going to be tough on my body in order to prepare for the 2021 Olympics as I will need to train 6 hours a day. This is obviously going to be a real challenge and even more so now as I am still recovering from my ACL injury.
5. Can you discuss how your life has changed since appearing on Strictly Come Dancing?
It’s funny because when I was doing the show I was in a bubble and was just focusing on the training and getting as best prepared for the Saturday but when it ended it was crazy, and I didn’t expect it at all! I remember going out shopping in Brighton with my family and everyone was coming over to me and it was just really weird, I realised then that my life would change. It’s calmed down a lot now and I suppose I’ve become a little more used to it.
6. Do you have any routines or methods you use in order to cope with pressure?
I will practice beforehand and then take 30 minutes and do what I would call a mindfulness session in which I visualise how I want to play and how I want to look on the table. Then, just before I walk on I will do some shadow play and make sure I am completely warmed up, sweating, and ready to play.
7. What are your 2 favourite Table drills?
I tend to practice middle and then either corner and 1 x wide F/H, 1 x middle F/H. I like to beast it, focus on consistency and just trying to make as many balls as possible. Pretty simple exercises but they work for me and my game.
8. If you could choose one player to watch, who would it be and why?
I’m going to go with Jan-Ove Waldner as he is just a joy to watch. Unfortunately, I have never seen him play live so If I had to choose a player that I have seen in real life it would have to be Ma Lin. I watched him play in the English Open and I was just amazed at his skill and touch, and his chop block was just insane. I remember it well as I was around 18 years old and I will never forget the control he had and also the way he moved was just incredible.
9. Which Coaching style brings out the best in you?
I like a coach who can really push me and someone who is very clear in their sessions, a pro active coach who can step in and analyse what needs to be better. I like coaches who talk a lot and regularly giving encouragement and feedback.
10. Finally, if you could give 2 tips to any young aspiring Table Tennis players, what would they be and why?
Firstly, just to be grateful to be given the opportunity to play Table Tennis and to appreciate every moment. Secondly, if you want to be successful, there are no short cuts and you just have to work your absolute butt off!!
It’s been a pleasure to interview Will and you are a massive inspiration to us and all our followers! Thanks for taking the time and effort!